Several incidents survive regarding Ebenezer during the Civil War. This great conflict, which pitted family members against one another and divided the almost century-old nation, affected Missouri, as well, as two governments came into power, one Confederate and one Union, and even the churches were affected.
Pastors during that time, Rev. McFarland and Rev. Fulton made great impact on the families of Ebenezer. These men were not only ministers in the church, but were involved in the community, as well. Their involvement, and especially the school operated by Mrs. McFarland, caused them to be well-loved by all, even if they were union men. At one point, a large contingent of rebel soldiers were camped near Greenfield, and sensing that these ministers might be in danger, two “Southern partisans” from the church went directly to the camp to appeal for protection for the men and their families. They requested that “these two families not be molested, that they were too valuable.” During the skirmishes and raids that followed, they were left alone, even though many families lost most or all of their possessions.
Especially disconcerting were the bushwhackers, literally guerrilla warriors, who rode throughout the region fighting against troops and supporters of the opposite side. Even Jesse James was noted to be a bushwhacker, fighting against unionist supporters and Union troops in Missouri. Atrocities occurred on both sides, as many homes and possessions were destroyed and lives lost.
Shortly after Rev. Fulton became pastor a story is told of the bushwhackers who came to church. Soon after morning worship had begun, the doors flew open and some 20 or more bushwhackers entered the church with guns drawn. Their demands? To appropriate any and all guns and ammunition from those in the church. Nothing else was taken. Upon gathering up their bounty the “guests” demanded, further, that those gathered in worship take a pledge not to battle against the Confederacy. Of course, at the end of drawn guns, the pledge was made by one and all. Satisfied at their earnest promise, the men departed back to the outskirts of Greenfield, where they had been camping in the high brush. Noting that the men were truly gone, Rev. Fulton quickly dismissed the service as everyone hurried back to their homes.
The church history reports that, at the end of the war, Ebenezer was the strongest Presbyterian church in Southwest Missouri, and Mrs. McFarland’s school (known as Brush College) was the only surviving school in the area.
Today, in the interest of relationships with overseas governments and missions outreaches, some mainline denominations have stripped all terminology about battle from Christian practice, including the hymn, Onward Christian Soldier, Marching as to War. Yet, we are in a battle, not necessarily with physical threats, but rather with spiritual forces. Although there are many skirmishes around our world today, the most prevalent is that in the spiritual realm. There is a constant battle as we are urged to turn away from God, or to just make compromises that render us ineffective for the kingdom of God.
After having been in the wilderness, fasting and praying, Jesus was approached by Satan. He didn’t tell Jesus to forsake God or to become a disciple of evil. No, he was much too crafty for that. Satan tempted Jesus in several ways, trying to steal Jesus’ power and strength and appealing to his “self” interests—power, appetite, and wealth (Matthew 4:1-11).
You see, the bushwhackers didn’t demand that the people in the sanctuary change their minds about the war, just that the people wouldn’t fight back! In our society today, the tempter doesn’t need to destroy us or take everything away; He just needs to render us ineffective so we will be unable to make a difference in the Kingdom. This can be done in so many ways, but the easiest way is to appeal to our “selves”—to our appetites and desires. And once the “deal” is made, worship is over.
Read through Ephesians 6:10-20 today and put on the full armor of God. Protect yourself from the “flaming arrows” of the enemy of your soul who seeks to tear you away from Christ and render you ineffective. “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
Mary Kay Glunt, Pastor